The United States is now a full member of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Convention governs all adoptions between the United States and the nearly 75 countries party to the Convention, including The Philippines.
The Hague Convention seeks to prevent the abduction, sale, or trafficking of children. It establishes international norms and procedures for processing inter-country adoption cases involving other Convention members, and protects the rights of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents while promoting transparency, accountability, and ethical practices among adoption service providers. For more information about the Convention, link to: http://adoption.state.gov/.
Who May be Adopted?
The Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(b)(1)(G), in part, defines "child”as:
- The child is under the age of 16 on the filing date of the petition (but see specific country requirements below).
- The child habitually resides in a Convention country.
- The U.S. citizen habitually resides in the U.S. and either adopts child in a Convention country or brings the child to a Convention country for adoption.
- Adoption abroad or custody abroad for U.S. adoption must be by the U.S. citizen and spouse jointly, or an unmarried U.S. citizen at least 25 years old as of the filing date of the petition (but see specific country requirements below).
- The child's natural parents (or parent, in the case of a child who has one sole or surviving parent because of the death, disappearance, abandonment, or desertion by the other parent), or other persons or institutions that retain legal custody of the child, have freely given their written irrevocable consent to the termination of their legal relationship with the child and to the child's emigration and adoption.
- If a child has two living natural parents, the natural parents are incapable of providing proper care for the child.
- The purpose of the adoption is to form a bona fide parent-child relationship; the child’s relationship with the natural parents has been terminated.
- In the case of a child who has not been adopted, the prospective adoptive parents must ensure that: (i) the competent authority of the foreign state has approved the child's emigration to the United States for the purpose of adoption, (ii) the prospective adoptive parents have complied with the pre-adoption requirements of the child's proposed residence, if any, and (iii) no natural parent or prior adoptive parent of the child retains, by virtue of such parentage, any right, privilege, or status in connection with the child.
- Release must be freely given and verified by the Central Authority of the child's country.
The following procedures for inter-country adoptions now apply to any citizen or couple residing in the United States who wish to adopt a child in the Philippines:
- The child must be under the age of 15.
- The adoptive parents must be at least 27 years old, and at least 16 years older than the child to be adopted.
- Adoption cases must be handled by federally accredited adoption service providers (ASP). For a list of accredited service providers, see http://adoption.state.gov/.
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rules require prospective adoptive parents to identify in their initial application the country from which they plan to adopt a child.
- Form I-800A must be filed prior to Form I-800.
- The matching of the child to the parents must be made by the Central Authority of the country where the child resides.
- A consular officer must determine whether the child meets the criteria of visa eligibility before the adoption is finalized or custody is granted in the country of origin. In cases where the adoption or grant of custody has met the requirements of the Convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act, consular officers in Convention countries will issue a Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate and grant a visa. New visa categories, IH-3 and IH-4, will be used in Convention adoption cases.
If you have general questions on inter-country adoption or how current adoption procedures have changed under the Convention, please visit the Department’s website, http://travel.state.gov. You may also call the Bureau of Consular Affairs in the United States at (202) 736-9130. Or you may fax questions to (202) 736-9080.
The prospective adoptive parents must file an Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country (I-800A) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) office having jurisdiction over their usual place of residence (see www.uscis.gov). Adoptive parents must also submit the completed I-800A form, Supplement 1 (listing all adult members of the household), and related supplements and forms.
The filing fee is $720. An additional biometrics fingerprint fee of $85 must be paid for each person residing in the household who is 18 or older.
All Hague Convention adoption cases are processed by the USCIS National Benefits Center at the following address:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
P.O. Box 805695
Chicago, IL 60680-4118
If the adoptive parents consent for USCIS to disclose information about their case to their Adoption Service Provider (ASP), they should complete Form I-800A, Supplement 2, Consent to Disclose Information. The adoptive parents may also arrange for the ASP to submit the approval notice, the accompanying home study, and other supporting evidence to the Central Authority in the Convention country in which the parents plan to adopt.
Note: Some states require a review of the home study by state authorities prior to submission to USCIS (e.g., Alabama, Colorado, Guam, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). In such cases, the adoptive parents may file the Form I-800A without the home study, which can be forwarded to USCIS later.
The Convention country’s Central Authority matches the prospective adoptive parents with a child. The Central Authority prepares a report that determines that: the child is adoptable, the envisaged placement is in the best interest of the child, the birth parent or legal custodian has freely consented in writing to the adoption, and no payment has been made to obtain the consent necessary for the adoption to be completed.
The adoptive parents file the Form I-800 petition with USCIS, including the Central Authority’s report on the child. Form I-800 is used to determine whether the child qualifies as a Convention adoptee. The petition is provisionally approved in accordance with USCIS regulations and forwarded to the respective U.S. Embassy/Consulate via the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing.
The adoptive parents must comply with the above procedures and file the Form I-800 before they adopt or obtain legal custody of the child. Also, Form I-800 must be filed before the expiration of the notice of the approval (or extension of) Form I-800A, and before the child's 16th birthday.
Following the provisional approval by USCIS, the petition is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). NVC notifies the respective Embassy/Consulate and forwards the Form I-800. The parents, or the ASP acting on their behalf, should bring these documents to the Embassy/Consulate, where the Biographic Data Form DS-230 Part II is signed in the presence of a Consular Officer. The personal appearance of the child is required.
After the Consular Officer reviews the application and determines no ineligibility exists, the Consular Officer issues a letter under Article 5 of the Hague Convention to the parents and the ASP, which must be forwarded to the Convention country's Central Authority. The letter states that the adoptive parents appear to be eligible for the adoption, and the child will most likely be authorized to enter and reside in the United States. The Intercountry Adoption Board of the Philippines (ICAB) grants temporary legal custody in accordance with the Convention.
If all Hague requirements are satisfied, the Consular Officer grants final approval of Form I-800 and issues a certificate stating that the adoption or the grant of legal custody meets the requirements of the Convention and the IAA. Finally, an immigrant visa is issued to the child. At this point, the adoption process is complete and the adoptive parents may return to the U.S. with their child.
ICAB monitors the case for six months. If the parent-child relationship appears to be thriving and all requirements are met, the ICAB will notify the parents that they may finalize the adoption. Once the adoption is complete, ICAB issues a Certificate of Conformity of Intercountry Adoption.
If you have general questions on inter-country adoption or how current adoption procedures have changed under the Convention, call the Bureau Office of Consular Affairs in the United States at 1-888-407-4747/ (202) 501-4444. Or you may fax questions to (202) 736-9080.
U.S. Department of State
Office of Children’s Issues
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
1-888-407-4747 (From the U.S. or Canada)
1-202-501-4444 (Outside the U.S. or Canada)
U.S. citizens residing in the Philippines who are interested in adopting a Filipino child through the Philippine Courts must meet the following conditions pursuant to Philippine adoption law:
- Be resident in the Philippines for at least three years prior to the filing of the adoption petition and maintain such residence until the adoption decree is entered by the Philippine court. The residency requirement is met if at least one of the prospective adoptive parents is Filipino.
- Possess a certification of legal capacity to adopt issued by the appropriate government agency from your state of residence.
The Philippines government may waive these requirements in the following cases:
- A former Filipino citizen who seeks to adopt a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity, as defined under Philippines law; or
- A person who seeks to adopt the legitimate son/daughter of his/her Filipino spouse
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO PARENTS ABOUT DOMESTIC ADOPTIONS
U.S immigration law has clear and specific provisions regarding qualifications for immigration. If you are attempting to bring someone who is not your child by birth, the following conditions must be met before that child can meet the statutory requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 101(b)(1):
- The child must have been legally adopted before the age of 16 (or be the sibling of a child who was adopted by the same parents while under the age of 18). The adoption must be legal and final. Simply providing financially for the child does not satisfy the legal adoption requirement. To satisfy U.S. visa requirements, the child must have been legally adopted pursuant to a final decree issued by a court having jurisdiction over the matter.
- In addition to the adoption decree, there are two additional requirements that must be met to be eligible for a U.S. immigrant visa as the child of a U.S. citizen:
- The adoptive parents must have had legal custody of the child for at least two years. “Legal custody” must be awarded by order of a court or recognized government entity. The start of legal custody begins the date the adoptive parents were granted legal custody of the child, or the date the adoption was finalized, whichever comes first (in the Philippines, the grant of custody is retroactive to the date the petition was filed).
- The child must have been under the parental control of the adoptive parents to the exclusion of the biological parents for at least two years prior to immigration. During this time, the adoptive parents must exercise primary parental control. Evidence must be presented to establish that the child and the adoptive parents had a bona fide parent-child relationship during any periods they resided separately.
- Finally, the child must satisfy all primary documentary requirements for an immigrant visa, and provide the following documents to establish their legal status as a child of the petitioner:
- A certified copy of the adoption decree;
- A certified copy of the Certificate of Finality of the adoption;
- A certified copy of the child’s birth certificate amended after the adoption;
- The legal custody decree (if custody was awarded before the adoption);
- Evidence that the child resided with the adoptive parents for at least two years, during which time they exercised primary parental control; and
- If the child was adopted at age 16 or 17 years, evidence that the child was adopted together with, or subsequent to, the adoption of a natural sibling who was under age 16 by the same adoptive parent(s).